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In 1827, a small group of people settled around a bay at Port Fairy, Australia. Among them was a newly wed couple, Sonny and Matilda Dixon. The town soon began to grow due to its fast developing fishing industry. Local stores began to spring up, and people started to cultivate the land.

However, in 1836, Sonny Dixon was killed in a fishing accident, leaving his wife Matilda a widow. After her husband’s death, Matilda became very close to the town’s children. She would bake cakes and give them to the children when they lost a tooth, thus earning the name "Tooth Fairy."

One night in 1840, while she was sleeping, a fire in her stove raged out of control. By the time the townspeople came to her rescue, the fire was out. But Matilda refused to come to the door or accept their assistance. The fire in her home left her horribly disfigured with an extreme sensitivity to light, she wore a porcelain mask, and only went out at night. From then on she ceased all contact with the outside world. Still, from time to time, she would leave gifts at the doorsteps of children’s houses, usually small change, since she had stopped baking. Matilda would wander the streets only under the cover of night, her face hidden behind a white porcelain mask, and look for houses where children had left their baby teeth in a handkerchief tacked to the front door.

One afternoon in 1841, two young children told their parents that they were off to visit "the Tooth Fairy." When they failed to return home, suspicion immediately fell on Matilda. The official search party quickly turned into an angry mob, thirsty for revenge. Armed with torches and a rope, they raced up the twisting road toward Matilda’s house.

Matilda bolted her door as the mob began hurling rocks at the house and screaming for her to come out. In an anguished, confused voice, she proclaimed her innocence, but it was no use. Half a dozen men broke down the door and dragged Matilda out, knocking over a huge jar and spilling hundreds of baby teeth across the floor.

Matilda covered her face with the porcelain mask and cried out for mercy. Though she begged them not to peek, two men pried the mask away from her face and smashed it on the ground. The men gasped, and some became ill, when they saw what was behind the mask -- a once kind face now burned beyond recognition and contorted by pain and anguish. No one who was there ever forgot what he saw, though they never spoke about it, except to cry out in the middle of a nightmare.

Matilda was hanged and suffered terribly before she died, kicking and flailing. When there was finally no breath left in her body, they set fire to it and, to ease their consciences, agreed that what they had done was an act of justice.

As they looked up at the strangled, charred body, there were shouts in the distance. The rest of the town’s inhabitants were running up the winding road toward them, stopping dead in their tracks at the sight of the poor old woman’s dangling corpse. The crowd parted and there were the two lost children, who had simply lost their way, wandered too deep into the woods, and fallen asleep.

The citizens of Port Fairy, realizing their mistake, buried Matilda’s body along with their secret. Many years later, the town’s cemetery had to be moved to a new location. Matilda Dixon’s body could not be found. The story of Matilda Dixon, the Tooth Fairy, was told to many generations after the murder, and it is believed that her spirit visits children on the night they lose their baby teeth, where she seeks her vengeance if they see her face.

(From a sermon by David Rigg, Who Is Jesus?, 7/3/2010)

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